UAS-based tools for mapping and monitoring hydrothermal systems: An example from Mammoth Lakes, California

Geothermal Resources Council Transactions
By: , and 



Unoccupied Aerial Systems (UAS) can accommodate a variety of tools for mapping and monitoring hydrothermal systems (e.g., magnetic, gas, photogrammetry, and thermal infrared [TIR]). These platforms offer increased speed, coverage area, and uniformity compared to ground-based measurements, as well as lower flight height – and therefore higher resolution – than occupied aircraft. We adapted a suite of tools for use with UAS and implemented these methods in a study focused on the area around Shady Rest Park, Mammoth Lakes, California, within the Long Valley Caldera. This location, which contains tree kills, gas vents, soil gas emissions, heated ground, and hydrothermal alteration, is the site of ongoing efforts to monitor changes in the surface expression of the local hydrothermal system. The methods applied in this study include: (1) airborne visible imagery for surficial mapping and the creation of high-resolution digital elevation models; (2) airborne magnetic measurements; (3) airborne TIR imagery; (4) airborne gas emission measurements; and (5) ground-based gravity measurements. We conducted these surveys in May and October of 2021, in part to establish baseline TIR and gas data against which future changes to the hydrothermal system may be assessed. UAS-based magnetic and ground-based gravity data were collected to map subsurface geology and to characterize potential subsurface controls on thermal anomalies and gas emissions. Results of these efforts at mapping and monitoring the hydrothermal system at Mammoth Lakes demonstrate how an integrated UAS- and ground-based approach may be applied more broadly to study other known or potential hydrothermal and volcanic systems. We consider the benefits and limitations of each method, particularly the TIR and gas sensors, which have less well-developed processing techniques in place for UAS applications. By integrating results from several of these different methods, however, the limitations facing each individual approach may be mitigated, and a better understanding of the hydrothermal system may be reached.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title UAS-based tools for mapping and monitoring hydrothermal systems: An example from Mammoth Lakes, California
Series title Geothermal Resources Council Transactions
Volume 46
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Geothermal Rising
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 20 p.
First page 1618
Last page 1637
Country United States
State California
City Mammoth Lakes
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